Publishing Content Online
Most publishers have online bookshops but here we consider producing a book to sell online. You have six options:
Kindle layout facilities are rudimentary but sufficient for most literary work. More importantly, Kindle books come out under the Amazon imprimatur, and have the ecommerce aspects already in place. You just supply the book's content in the required format.
Pdf documents have excellent layout facilities and can be read by most tablets and computers. Hyperlinks make for easy navigation, and most pdf creation software (but check) also preserves links to outside websites. The problem is protection, preventing the ebooks being copied and sold on. Though pdf documents have two passwords, to prevent unauthorized opening and tampering with the content, cheap software exists to circumvent that protection. Once purchased and opened, moreover, what is to prevent the pdf document being pirated?
You need digital rights management (DRM) protection. Most is aimed at corporate users and expensive: Locklizard, Armjisoft, Artistscope The cheaper options for computer-read (but not ebook readers) are
Html Compiled eBooks
These are the ebooks created by compiling html webpages with an ebook maker. The software is cheap, and often has time-expiry and restriction to a designated PC, features preventing the ebooks being stolen and sold on. The disadvantages are, firstly, that the ebooks can be read only on Windows PCs, and secondly, that only a few will preserve page layouts created with the newer CSS (cascading style sheets). Most have a free trial period, however, allowing you to check layout and hyperlink preservation, and it's not difficult to redesign webpages with old-fashioned tables.
Reasonably-priced software exists to turn text or pdf documents into an online brochure, which can be viewed by most browsers on any platform (Windows, Mac, Unix). Some can can be copy-protected and monetized with integrated DRM software, usually provided as an optional extra. Examples include ePageWizard ($99-249), Kvisoft FlipBook Maker Pro ($297), Uniflip ($79/publication), Xflip ($97-297/year) and eMagCreator ($69/month). If necessary, subscription and DRM protection can be added through a subscription site. You can also convert pdf documents to simple flash for online viewing with print2flash ($60-100), but the resulting files can again be rather large.
An alternative approach is to publish your literary efforts through a membership site charging subscription fees. Affordable software includes Sitelok ($40) EasyMember, ($147), Amember ($180) and Ning Paid Access ($20/month). Membership sites, as their name suggests, create communities, thriving on feedback and contributions from members and guest writers. You may want to share the considerable workload by running such a site with a small group of fellow writers.
Magazine and text-book publishers are increasingly employing publishing platforms that offer sophisticated layout and subscription features. Most are pricy and for corporate use, but services possibly affordable by the individual writer (or group of writers) include Dozuki, Inkling Habitat, Booktype and OverDrive Media Console.
Subscription is a difficult business model for the Internet where many users expect information to be free. Exceptions are topical information betting tips, investment advice but even here you may be better off with an email service. In general, readers prefer to have something tangible, an ebook rather than access to information.
Unless you're already a celebrity, or run a popular site, it's difficult now to get your site noticed without spending a good deal of time and money on marketing. Employing the pay per click search engines (Google, etc.) can be expensive: a 0.5% conversion rate on clicks for which you have paid 25 cents/click gives a customer acquisition cost of $50, for example. Many ebook marketers especially those promoting 'how to make your fortune online' market themselves through email and videos and offer a range of services: ebooks, subscriptions, one-to-one counseling: clearly a full-time job in itself and not one that many writers would enjoy.
Readers are more comfortable with books coming out under an established name, even if it's only Amazon. Kindle books, for all their rudimentary layouts, may therefore be a better bet than your carefully crafted pdf ebook. But, as always in business, you can experiment with several approaches, and indeed should do so.
Technology is not now the stumbling block so much as finding the right business model. Information you'll probably need on search engine, optimization, pay-per-click directories, marketing platforms, email services and much else is freely available on ecommerce-digest.com, which looks at ebusiness from an objective business-studies viewpoint.
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